Monday, March 22, 2010

You Are On The Menu

It was a tough life for our early ancestors. There were all sorts of scary creatures out there... hyenas as big as bears, saber-toothed tigers, and many other mega-sized carnivores... all on the prowl for a nice juicy dinner of australopithecus. The only way our forefathers survived was by living in social groups and looking out for each other. That's why we are such peaceful, cooperative and social animals today (in spite of what you might conclude if you've been watching some of those Tea Party protests recently.)

At least that's the current theory proposed by many anthropologists. For example, check out Early humans on the menu.

This is a problem if you are competing in a sailboat race. You may think you are trying to win but really much of what you do is based on your inheritance of unconscious dogmas that require you to behave in accordance with principles that were essential to the survival of your primitive, pack-living ancestors. You accept being controlled, you acquiesce in being beaten, and you restrain your aggressiveness. You are embarrassed by winning, you think that the current pecking order in the fleet is OK, and you feel that losing is a satisfactory outcome.

At least that's what Stuart Walker writes in his latest book, The Code of Competition. Walker claims that we amateur sailors are handicapped by an innate need to comply with an altruistic Code of Competition. We can't help it. It's in our genes. It's how our ancestors avoided being eaten by that scary saber-toothed tiger. How strange!

I like the concept. It's yet another excuse I can use for not winning. My genes made me do it.

However, it's not clear to me from the blurb at the above link whether the learned Doctor Walker tells us in his book how to overcome our genetic Mr. Nice Guy problem and win some races in spite of ourselves.

Damn, I guess I'll just have to buy the book to find out.


spammer said...

If you like Australopithecus, there are many other tasty menu items for you at the Spam Museum.

bonnie said...

Oh looks like the Spam spammer is spamming his or her way through my blogroll!!!

Sam Chapin said...

Get the book, Tillerman so you can tell us the answers. I have a feeling that the tight social groups had "leaders" that had some superior skills of one type or another..
I have a feeling if you want to push into the winning circle on a regular basis.. It will help to be sails.. polished bottom.. fair blades.. strait mast..better tacks.. better gybes.. better mark roundings.. better starts (lots of practice starts).. continue your daily runs.. sign up for that gym membership and get in 3x week.. sharpen your match racing skills (you need that for the last race of the big series).. the best sun glasses to spot the pressure.. the best hiking pads..the most time on the water in windy conditions so you don't get tired and brain dead when the others do.. sail the boat so much that you can tell what it is doing while you are watching the rest -- clouds, boats, waves, RC, etc.

I think you can do all that and still be a nice guy and help others, do your 360 when you hit a mark that no one else sees, give the guys bouy room when they think they have it.

I think there are some of those out there.

Baydog said...

Sam the Sage of Eustis: Wow, Good advice.

tillerman said...

You know Sam, I might have actually decided to do some of those things on your excellent list of recommendations if the first one had not been "be younger."

Zen said...

Hmmmm but is it strange?

BeachComber said...

Don't buy the book, Tillerman! You know it's written by a pompous blowhard. He touched on this topic in The Tactics of Small Boat Racing, and frankly, I thought it was a load of BS.

He's a medical doctor, decent sailor, bad writer and arm chair psychologist.

tillerman said...

I know Walker has addressed this subject before. His 1980 book WINNING: The Psychology of Competition covers this theme quite a lot. I guess he has discovered that all this anthropological research about the sources of human altruism supports some his views about how our minds work when competing.

Aren't writers allowed to revisit and rework previous topics? God knows I do it and I've only been blogging for 5 years whereas Walker has been writing sailing books for a couple of centuries (or so ir seems.)

You don't think the old codger might have some new thoughts worth reading?

BeachComber said...

After wasting 30-odd bucks on The Sailor's Wind, I'm not inclined to spend money on any of Walker's books ever again.

I did get The Tactics on inter-library loan, though. Most of it was good, but I thought his speculation that perhaps the reason losers lose is that they fear victory itself! was just ridiculous. It struck me as an idea out of the top of someone's head without any grounding in evidence-based research. Sadly, the same thing can be said about much of evolutionary psychology.

Tillerman said...

Hmmm. Actually I do think there's something in what Walker has to say on this. Perhaps I'll write a longer post about it once this whole strange blogging month is over.

BeachComber said...

By all means, Tillerman, please read it, so we don't have to!

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